This year, Thanksgiving was unique because it fell out on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. This phenomenon is the result of the Gregorian solar calendar overlapping with the lunar calendar. Dubbed “Thanksgivukah,” this double holiday was featured in dozens of media segments, including the New York Times, “The Colbert Report” and The Huffington Post for the this day only happens once in several lifetimes. As an Orthodox Jew and avid turkey lover, I was overjoyed and had a wonderful candlelit dinner Thursday night complete with latkes and pumpkin pie.
However, these holidays share more than just a date. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans following their first successful harvest in the New World. Their story is one of perseverance, cooperation and unity. Hanaukkah tells the story of the Maccabees restoring The Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by forces of the Seleucid Empire.
The details in both holidays’ backgrounds show the similarities between them. The Pilgrims who celebrated the First Thanksgiving were Brownists who imigrated to the New World out of fear of losing their cultural identity. The Maccabean Revolt was in direct response to the Greek king Antiochus forbidding Jews to continue living by their ancestral customs. Although they were vastly outnumbered, the Maccabees managed to survive, just like the Pilgrims managed to survive against the extremely harsh conditions of winter. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are both celebratory meals to thank G-d, although different traditional foods are involved. Thanksgiving became a true American tradition in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national holiday of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Not that Thanksgiving is necessarily a religious holiday anymore. That it the final similarity I wish to shed light on.
Hanukkah used to be a religious holiday, in which special prayers were said, songs would be sung, and communities would be united in publicizing the miracle. These days, children are fixated on their Hanukkah presents, a relatively new practice established when Jewish children got jealous of their friends. Religion aside, Hanukkah has begun to lose its values.
The same could be said for Thanksgiving. In recent years, people have been caring about the family around the table than the football game on TV. Even if a Thanksgiving dinner is still had, people of all ages scarf their food down as quickly as they can so that they can be the first few hundred in line at their nearest Black Friday sale. There is an undeniable irony that the holiday in which our ancestors sat down to appreciate what they had has morphed into us trampling others to get our hands on cheap smartphones. If you can identify yourself as one of these people, I do not wish to needlessly berate you. Instead, allow me to offer a bit of well-intended advice for next year.
Instead of being online or in line, spend the day with family or friends. You don’t get to see them that often, and all of those amazing deals can wait until Cyber Monday.